9 November 2017

South Africa: Desperate, Waterless Ugu Residents Bath in the Sea

Residents in parts of the Ugu District Municipality have been without water for more than two weeks and some, who are still affected, have been trekking to the beaches so that they can bath in the sea.

Others have opted to buy 5-litre bottles.

Water supply was cut off during an illegal strike involving Ugu Municipality workers.

However, although the strike ended last Friday, water has only been restored in some parts of the municipality.

Residents spoke to News24 about their ordeal.

Greg Bouwer, of Margate Extension 3, said his taps haven't had "a drop of water" for 15 consecutive days.

Instead, the 42-year-old, his wife Shireen and their 13-year-old daughter rely on a community tank for their water supply.

"Sometimes [the municipality] comes past and puts water in the tank where the whole community collects water. Sometimes they don't," he said.

Bouwer said they also rely on private companies, who voluntarily deliver water to the area in Jojo tanks.

Hopeful

A Margate CBD resident, who did not wish to be named, said her water was restored on Wednesday.

"We were suffering without water. I used to buy water at a cost of R6 per 5 litre container in order to fill my water tank," she said.

Some suburbs, including Ramsgate and Saint Michaels, still have no water supply.

France Zama, municipality spokesperson, said water supply has been restored to most affected areas.

He added that the building up process of the water network supplying Margate and surrounding areas was underway.

"This is due to a sizeable amount of damage incurred to our network which had caused a total collapse of the network supplying these areas, necessitating a series of repairs," he said.

Zama added that the municipality was hopeful that normal water supply would be restored to all the areas during the week "while we continue to provide relief supply to the affected communities".

The municipality's water and sanitation was reportedly sabotaged, allegedly by unhappy municipal employees who embarked on an illegal strike.

George Henderson, Ward 19 councillor at the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, explained the background to the workers' protest action.

"In 1997, Ugu workers asked for a non-statutory Sanlam Death and Disability Benefit Policy," he said in a statement on Thursday.

"The scheme paid out on death, disability and had a funeral cover," he added.

Henderson explained that for several years the Ilembe District Municipality had a mandatory Sanlam Group Life Scheme policy for their workers.

'Catastrophic disaster'

The scheme paid out on retirement or death.

"In October 2012 the workers stopped paying contributions and the parties began negotiations," he said.

After three years of negotiations, a settlement was finally reached and the Ilembe workers were paid out on September 30, 2015, Henderson said.

"It seems that a rumour went out suggesting that the Ugu workers should demand a similar payout, thus implying, without elaborating, that the policies were the same. Representatives from Sanlam, Ugu and Samwu were unable to explain the difference to the workers," he said.

It led to an illegal strike by Ugu workers in December 2016.

"To prevent the strike from continuing Ugu management capitulated to the illegitimate demands and paid the employees R11m in a full and final settlement," said Henderson.

He said he warned the municipality at the time that, by giving in to the workers' illegitimate demands, they were setting a precedent and "in future they will demand the rest, which is more than 10 times the initial payout".

"As predicted, it unfortunately didn't stop there and culminated in the catastrophic disaster we are now all facing," he said.

Source: News24

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